The Cooking School at Tutka Bay Lodge!

The visuals from my journey to the cooking school at Alaska’s remote and serene Tutka Bay Lodge last week.

Indeed, a picture is worth a thousand words.

I am still working on the full write up from the class, but in the mean time here’s some eye candy…

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Cookbook Review: Nourishing Broth

I love cookbooks and have hundreds of them in my home. New releases, trendy editions, vintage copies, dog-eared classics. You name it, I pretty much have it in my disorganized and tattered but beloved collection.

Over the years while writing for newspapers, Amazon’s Al Dente blog and my own website, I have reviewed numerous cookbooks and one of my benchmarks for judging a book is whether the recipes and tips really work. Lately, I’ve noticed that many cookbook reviews give a casual broad mention of the content and the author and it’s pretty clear that the reviewer didn’t really crack the book and put it to the test.

I often ask myself, did this person peruse it or use it? For me, the true test takes place on the stove and at the kitchen counter. Are the instructions logical and is the ingredient list accurate? Does the author erroneously assume knowledge and omit details that might impact the finished results? Do the recipes add value to the everyday repertoire? Is the content unique enough that the reader is encouraged to ditch tradition, take a risk and try something new?

Well, when I recently saw Nourishing Broth at the  Amazon Bookstore down at Seattle’s University Village, I put it on my cookbook bucket list and bought it a few days later. Admittedly, the paperback book isn’t flashy.but the contents are indeed explosive. Written by Sally Fallon Morell of the Weston A. Price Foundation, the book covers all aspects of making nutritious restorative homemade broths and is based on in depth research, countless studies, and no nonsense home based culinary tradition. Sally cites research and writes convincingly how a well crafted broth can help tackle issues such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, digestive diseases, mental health, athletic challenges, and even saggy middle aged skin and the dreaded cellulite! This is a lot of the stuff that our grandmothers knew intuitively but somehow got shoved aside as time marched on and the food scene became more dynamic.

Consisting of three main parts: Basic Broth Science, The Healing Power of Broth, and Recipes, Nourishing Broth sent me on a little quest.  I’ve always made homemade broths for my family and my kids often swear by how my chicken broth, when laced with ginger, garlic and cilantro, can quickly turn around a nasty cold.

Sally’s book, however, inspired me to tweak my tradition even further. With my list in hand at my neighborhood Asian market,  I headed for the meat department and purchased unique stubby cuts of beef with bones and collagen. On page 168 in the introduction to her recipe for Classic Beef Stock she says: “Good beef stock requires several sorts of bones: knuckle bones…marrow bones….meaty ribs…and shanks…”  I gathered a motley but beautiful collection of shanks, rib cubes, oxtail and more.

Following her basic recipe and using my big All-Clad slow cooker, I was flabbergasted by the depth of flavor, silky texture and  overall richness of the beef broth I created. I incorporated that broth into numerous soups and dishes that week and the feedback was very positive. I really knew I was on to something when I spontaneously worked the last of that broth and beef into a late night beef taco for my 14 year old son.He declared it the “best ever.” My beloved Golden Retriever even took note and sat patiently next too me while I drained the broth at the end of the day! When I half jokingly asked her if she liked “gravy” she licked her lips, wagged her tail and sat at attention!

Since then, I’ve made chicken and shellfish broth recipes from the book and incorporated many of Sally’s healthy tips. Priced at $23, this book offers tremendous value and endless healthy inspiration. I highly recommend it.

Duke’s Chowder House Publishes First Cookbook

Duke Moscrip, one of Seattle’s longtime and legendary restaurateurs, has just released his first cookbook. As Wild as It Gets: Duke’s Secret Sustainable Seafood Recipes is a hefty treasure to hold. Published by Aviva Publishing in New York and clocking in with a whopping 382 full-color pages, this book shares the recipes for all of the dishes served at Duke’s Chowder House.

Moscrip opened Duke’s in 1976 and the restaurant’s flagship dish, clam chowder, was inspired by Duke’s New England grandfather and the chowder that he served to Duke when he was a child. Over the years, the business has expanded and there are now six locations throughout the Puget Sound. Chowder remains a hallmark at the restaurant but over the years Duke has expanded the repertoire to include wild sustainable seafood much of which hails from waters here in the Pacific Northwest and, of course, Alaska.

The book, co-authored with Chef “Wild” Bill Ranniger, explores the story of Duke’s…and Duke…in great detail. Duke’s salmon sourcing trips to Alaska are highlighted as are family meals with his children and grandchildren.

I only received my review copy this morning and was pleased to be offered a copy as I cook a lot of seafood in my little kitchen. I’ve also eaten at Duke’s many times and a few years ago I wrote the press releases for the restaurant.   At first glance, the color photography in the book grabbed my eye and enticed my culinary instincts.  The recipes aren’t only geared towards seafood…they obviously run the gamut from soup to desserts.

Over the years,  I’ve admired Duke’s wedge salad, an iceberg classic,  so I was happy to see Sweet Blackberry Wedge Salad on page 116. The recipe for Nothing But Blue Sky Bleu Cheese is revealed and that’s one that is now on my recipe to do list.

After a quick glance through the recipes, I realized that I’d need to get organized and dedicate a little more time to recreating some of the dishes at home. Because these are restaurant recipes, there are often recipes within recipes, meaning to make a salad you have to make a specific dressing the recipe for which is found on another page. Some people might think this is too complicated to follow but it’s the nature of the beast when you recreate chef recipes.

That being said, even though I was short on time, I soon found myself rustling up ingredients and adapting one of the salmon recipes, “Wild Alaska Salmon Caesar Shoots” found in the “Appeteasers & Shared Plates” chapter. The photo shows little blackened salmon strips tucked snugly into romaine lettuce leaves drizzled with Caesar dressing.   In the recipe introduction, Duke mentions how he loves salads but salads require a bowl, utensils, a napkin, a chair etc. He said he liked this recipe because you have all the comforts of a salad but you can eat it with your hands! Aha! That description was perfect and it was all that I needed to launch into a spontaneous cooking session.  Admittedly, I didn’t follow the ingredient list exactly because I didn’t have all the spices handy for Duke’s Blackening Spice of Life. That being said, I used the technique described and the results were excellent…perfect finger food for Super Bowl Weekend.

So if you want to add to your seafood cookbook repertoire, check out this newbie. You will be inspired to not only follow the recipes but to use them as a culinary launching pad, tweaking and testing to suit your wild, wonderful and whimsical ways.

 

How to Judge a Cookbook? Use It!!

Two cookbook classics...Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.
Two cookbook classics…Home Cooking and More Home Cooking by Laurie Colwin.

Cookbook reviews can be a funny thing. Even if you aren’t a professional food writer, how do you judge a cookbook? By the cover? By the photos? Or, by the recipe?

I have lots of cookbooks in my collection. Many are new. Others are tried and true favorites that were published thirty years ago. Without a doubt, I think the best way to judge a cookbook is to COOK from it firsthand. This was my philosophy when I was charged with the task of writing a cookbook review for The Wall Street Journal many years ago. When I started the process, it was a no brainer that I would have to get the books and then cook from them in order to judge them. No one told me this, I just knew it intuitively.

This seemingly sensible approach has guided me ever since. Let’s be realistic, here. How can someone judge a cookbook simply by flipping the pages and spouting their opinions? I suppose they can, but does that review provide a real public service to trusting cooks? I don’t think so.

So, like I said, how do you judge a cookbook? By the photos? The writing? The fancy byline? Or by the success of the recipe??